shamanic 2 - Winkelman / BEHAVIORAL AMERICAN SHAMANISM...

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AMERICAN BEHAVIORAL SCIENTIST Winkelman / SHAMANISM Shamanism as Neurotheology and Evolutionary Psychology MICHAEL WINKELMAN Arizona State University Universals of shamanism reflect innate brain processes and representational systems and fundamental aspects of consciousness. Shamanic universals involve psychophysiological dynamics of altered states of consciousness (ASCs) and visionary experiences, metaphoric representations produced through integration of innate representational modules, and ritu- als that produce psychophysiological healing responses. ASCs reflect natural brain pro- cesses involving systemic integrative conditions. Universal shamanic representations (e.g., animism, animal allies, and soul flight) use cross-modal integration of specialized innate modules and reflect fundamental aspects of the psychodynamics of self. These prelinguistic emotional, social, and mental processes use presentational symbolism that reflects funda- mental structures of consciousness. Therapeutic aspects of shamanism involve the psychophysiological effects of ASCs, ritual and community evocation of neurotransmitter responses, and the functions of spirit concepts in representing and manipulating individual and group psychodynamics. The shamanic paradigm’s psychobiological foundations explain the origins and cross-cultural distribution of shamanism, its modern manifestations, and the continued applicability of shamanic practices. Shamanism, humanity’s most ancient spiritual, religious, and healing prac- tice, has achieved a dramatic modern resurgence. The cross-cultural distribution and current adoption of shamanism by professionals poses a dilemma for per- spectives that consider religious behavior to be ephemeral. The cross-cultural manifestations of shamanism and its contemporary appeal are rooted in psycho- biological structures and basic functions of the brain, mind, and consciousness. This article reviews data on the universals of shamanism and their neurological bases. Integration of cross-cultural and neurological perspectives reveals the psychobiological basis of shamanic universals such as altered states of con- sciousness (ASCs), soul journeys, animal allies and guardian spirits, death and rebirth experiences, and healing practices. Shamanism plays a central role in elucidating neurotheology because sha- manism constitutes humanity’s first theological and spiritual system. Cross-cul- tural manifestations of similar shamanic ideology and practice reflect neuro- phenomenological and neurognostic structures, forms of experience and 1875 AMERICAN BEHAVIORAL SCIENTIST, Vol. 45 No. 12, August 2002 1875-1887 © 2002 Sage Publications
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knowing based in innate biological and symbolic capacities (Laughlin, interpretive framework for understanding the universals of shamanism and reveal the foundations of humanity’s original neurotheology. The cross-cultural manifestations of shamanic experiences and practices (Winkelman, 1992) illus-
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shamanic 2 - Winkelman / BEHAVIORAL AMERICAN SHAMANISM...

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